Durga slays the asura Mahisha, oil painting on paper, 12″ x 16″.

The episode of durga devI slaying the haughty asurA mahIsha is probably one of the most iconic in hindu art (both contemporary and ancient). The episode is prominently narrated in the devI mahAtmyam of the mArkandeya purANa.

Here, I have chosen to depict my own version of the event, beginning with a buffalo-esque depiction of the asurA (as he is indeed referred to in the scriptures) since I am quite tired of the usual depictions in contemporary art (for which we can thank Ravi Varma and C. M. Vitankar, among others). In fact there are several such depictions in temple art, most notably in the mahishAsuramardinI relief sculptures at the group of monuments in Mahabalipuram.

The painting was done in oil on paper (oil paper, no pre-processing). The absorbent surface quickly sucked out the oil binder and the painting had to be ‘oiled out’ twice midway. The early layers used liquin, the base painting was a wash (OMS + Liquin) of transparent red oxide.

Preliminary pencil study on toned paper, 9″x12″

A preliminary study was done on toned paper using pencil & chalk to establish the lighting, position the characters and set the scene. The drawing (as well as the painting above) was done from the imagination.



From the jungle…

Path to the forest. Casein and gouache on paper 10″x14″.

Forest scene showing two male deer. The first stage was a quick watercolor-esque gouache application (left). The gouache can be treated just like watercolor, this consists mostly of wet-in-wet washes of burnt umber, yellow ochre and cobalt blue. For this, transparent gouache pigments are essential since many manufacturers add titanium white or filler in their gouache.

Even though gouache ‘lifts’ with water, addition of thicker casein paint on top of the first stage can be done with minimal lifting (Right). This shines through, particularly in the dry brush effects with the grass. Some brown ink was added later for fine lines in the fur.